MASTERPIECE

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The acclaimed PBS series MASTERPIECE, renowned for its superb adaptations of classic literature, is a trusted source for both teachers and students. Presenting a treasure trove of video segments from MASTERPIECE, supported by essays and teacher tips, this collection offers innovative ways to access, understand, and analyze complex literary texts. Watching these pivotal moments from award-winning shows also helps to provide a deeper appreciation of the power of film dramatization—and the importance of becoming a critical media consumer.

  • Great Expectations 1: Setting the Scene

    This video excerpt is the opening scene from the 2012 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. A man mysteriously emerges from a marsh to ominous music. A young boy, Pip, is shown briefly in a church graveyard, reading the sad gravestone of his parents and five brothers and sisters. Suddenly frightened, Pip runs off, but not to safety. Instead, he goes towards the marsh, right into the path of the hulking escaped convict Abel Magwitch, who is coated with grime and mud. Magwitch grabs Pip. "Scream again," Magwitch says to Pip, "and I’ll cut your throat."

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Great Expectations 2: Becoming a Gentleman

    In this video excerpt from the 2012 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, months have passed since Pip received the news that a mysterious benefactor has provided money for his education as a gentleman. When Joe Gargery—the kindly blacksmith who helped raise Pip—unexpectedly comes for a visit, Pip, embarrassed by Joe's shabby clothes and working-class accent, can hardly look at the man who befriended him and taught him a trade. Joe remarks, "You look different." Pip tries to dismiss the comment. "It’s just a suit," Pip replies. But Joe understands that Pip is not only ashamed of him, but doesn't want to be reminded of his humble beginnings. Pip's unkind treatment of Joe allows the viewer to begin to see how money and a rise in status alone may not create a true gentleman.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Great Expectations 3: Happily Ever After?

    This video excerpt is the moving, final scene from the 2012 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. Pip, returned to his humble origins, hears that Estella, now a widow, has retuned to Satis House. As he approaches the ruined house, he sees a face in the upper window, much as he had when he first visited as a boy. He removes his hat, and waits. Inside, Estella descends the staircase and emerges from the door. Pip and Estella take each other’s hands and bow their heads together. No words are spoken as the film ends.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • David Copperfield 1: Meeting Mr. Murdstone

    Explore how filmmakers bring characters to life in this video from MASTERPIECE: “David Copperfield.” David’s first encounter with his cruel stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, shatters his idyllic childhood and begins his journey to adulthood. Students learn about how Dickens’s life inspired the novel, as well as the filmmakers’ craft in bringing the characters to life. Mr. Murdstone’s physical and psychological power over the innocent, vulnerable David echoes Dickens’s own experiences. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • David Copperfield 2: Comedy and Character

    Explore how Dickens’s skill in creating memorable secondary characters help make his works not only memorable, but has kept them popular for more than 160 years in this video excerpt from the MASTERPIECE adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. Wilkins Micawber does more than provide comic relief. He is a kindly father figure to David and offers an important respite for David on his way to adulthood.

    Grades: 9-12
  • David Copperfield 3: David and Aunt Betsey

    Analyze the filmmakers’ choices when adapting a Dickens novel into a film. In this pivotal scene from the 2000 MASTERPIECE production of "David Copperfield," David, destitute and desperate, approaches his formidable Aunt Betsey for the first time. The director and screenwriter had to make tough choices about what to keep and what to change or delete. As students analyze the scene by comparing Dickens’s original text with the film adaption, they explore the challenges that confront filmmakers when interpreting a literary work for the screen.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Jane Eyre 1: First Impressions

    In this video segment from the 2007 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, we get a glimpse of Jane's remarkable ability to stand up for herself and against injustice. Her aunt, Mrs. Reed, summons Jane and tells her, "You have deliberately made it impossible for me to love you." Despite her aunt's fury, Jane responds quite calmly, "You have not tried very hard…and on the day you die, God will know who's telling the truth, whatever you or I say now." Exasperated, her aunt decides to send Jane away to boarding school, run by the heartless Mr. Brocklehurst. During her interview with Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane proves herself to be not only courageous, but clever as well. When asked what she must do to avoid going to hell—the fate of "disobedient, deceitful girls"” when they die—Jane replies, spiritedly, "I must take care to keep in good health and not to fall ill, sir." Mr. Brocklehurst is appalled at her impudence. He asks her again if she is a "deceitful girl." Jane insists, "I am not a liar."

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Jane Eyre 2: Meeting Mr. Rochester

    In this scene from the 2007 MASTERPIECE film of Jane Eyre, Jane is walking alone on the moors. The mood is tranquil, yet there is a hint of foreboding. Suddenly, Jane’s quiet contemplation of nature is crosscut with the image and sound of a horse galloping thunderously. The music changes, and we know something dangerous is about to happen. Out of the mist comes a riding figure. Before Jane can move out of the way, the horse rears up. We see the horse on the ground, and the man yells at a dog, “Quiet, Pilot. Dammit!” Jane asks, “Are you injured, sir?” The man replies harshly, “Get away from me. Witch. (You’ve) done enough damage.” Jane identifies herself, but Mr. Rochester does not. Leaning on Jane for support, he gets back on his horse, groaning. “That’s what happens when you bewitch a man’s horse, Miss Eyre,” he says, “a lot of pain and cursing.” Jane, although shaken by the incident, corrects him: “I did not bewitch your horse, sir.” When he orders her home, she says, with a tiny bit of defiance in her voice, that first she will finish her errand.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Jane Eyre 3: The Governess

    In this scene from the 2007 MASTERPIECE film of Jane Eyre, Jane has been invited to bring Adele to the ladies at a fancy dress party, including the imperious Lady Ingram and her beautiful daughter Blanche, whom everyone assumes will become Mr. Rochester’s fiancée. As the scene opens, Mr. Rochester and Lady Ingram are arguing. “If some people are rich and some poor, then that is God’s will. So be it, I am satisfied,” she tells Mr. Rochester. Blanche is annoyed and unfriendly towards Adele and, when the conversation turns to governesses, her mother declares, “…governesses are a nuisance, all of them.” Blanche laughs carelessly about a trick she played on one of her governess. “We were very naughty,” she says, “She was so boring, poor thing.” Jane observes the conversation silently, but she is hurt and insulted by their disdain and disgust.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Sense and Sensibility 1: Dinner at Norland Park

    Within the first 10 minutes of this 2008 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, we learn much about the plot, characters, and meaning of the novel. After the death of Henry Dashwood, his widow and their three daughters—Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret—are forced to see their grand home, Norland Park, taken over by Henry’s son by a former marriage, John, and his wife, Fanny. As family members share an elegant dinner, the dialogue helps to establish not only each character’s distinct personality, but also the mood, tone, and trajectory of the story.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Sense and Sensibility 2: Barton Cottage

    In this scene from the 2008 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood sisters and their mother first see their new home, Barton Cottage, a simple dwelling set against the tumultuous north Devon coast—and the viewer experiences it with them. As the camera swoops over the untamed sea, the cottage first appears large, then insignficant when set against the vast landscape. The Dashwood family, now very far away from the “civilized” world of society, is on its own. As we follow the family as they enter the cottage, each character’s reaction—Mrs. Dashwood is overwhelmed, Marianne pronounces it “romantic,” and Elinor is practical—reinforces what we already know about their personalities.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Sense and Sensibility 3: The Proposal

    The romance between Edward and Elinor is, for many, the heart of Sense and Sensibility, and Edward’s proposal serves as the climax of the 2008 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. From the moment Edward arrives at the cottage, there is a palpable sense of suspense. As the scene unfolds—Edward declares his love and Elinor accepts amidst tears of joy—the happiness that the characters experience is so real and powerful that we find ourselves cheering them on.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Wuthering Heights 1: On the Moors

    This scene in the 2009 MASTERPIECE version of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights skillfully sets up not only the plot and characters (the rugged Heathcliff and the innocent Catherine Linton), but a distinct time and place: the Yorkshire moors. Catherine is unaware of the circumstances surrounding her mother’s passionate relationship with Heathcliff and the dangers of the moors themselves. To emphasize this, she is shown in a simple white dress, skipping happily down the lane. Suddenly, as the music changes, Heathcliff looms above her on horseback. Catherine is about to be introduced to a more sinister reality—and to Wuthering Heights itself.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Wuthering Heights 2: Heathcliff as Hero

    This scene from MASTERPIECE’S 2009 adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights reveals Heathcliff’s nature: romantic and rebellious. Mr. Earnshaw offers to buy Heathcliff—the orphan he adopted—a thoroughbred horse. (He has already given his daughter Cathy a pretty silver locket.) Instead, Heathcliff chooses a beautiful white horse, which he easily tames, much to the delight of father and daughter. Heathcliff then spontaneously and magnanimously offers the horse to Catherine—he already understands that Catherine has her own “wild” nature. The two young people ride off together, reveling in their freedom.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Wuthering Heights 3: Love or Revenge?

    In this scene from the 2009 MASTERPIECE adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff interrogates Cathy about how she has changed since her stay at the Linton’s Thrushcross Manor. As we glimpse Heathcliff’s darker side, we begin to question his motivation—is he driven by love or revenge? Catherine is annoyed with Heathcliff, and yet slightly guilty; she knows that Heathcliff disdains the Lintons. She tries to dismiss him, but he recognizes her shift in affections. When he promises revenge (“I shall make you suffer for this.”), we don’t take it too seriously, but it portends the tragic turn the plot is about to take.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Agatha Christie Book & Film Club

    Produced for librarians, the MASTERPIECE Agatha Christie Book & Film Club provides everything you need for exciting and engaging library programs, including:

    • • Background information on Agatha Christie and her work
    • • Library programming ideas
    • • Book & film club discussion questions and activities
    • • Resources in print and online
    • • Delicious Death recipe created to honor the 120th anniversary of Christie’s birth
    Grades: 9-13+
  • The Diary of Anne Frank

    Watch a dramatization of moments in the life of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who lived in hiding from the Nazis during World War II with her family and four other people. The alternating boredom and terror of life in hiding, as well as Anne’s growing desire to become a serious writer, are captured in these video segments, all adapted from “The Diary of Anne Frank” and based on entries from Anne's diary.

    Grades: 5-12

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